Some programs traditionally funded by United Way of Erie County, have been sent notice that they will no longer be eligible for funding.

It's part of a change in United Way's strategy, unanimously approved by its board in December. United Way is making a shift from a being a fund raising organization to a community impact organization. They are now strategically focused on student success and family stability, and plan to allocate funds based on programs that line up with that strategy.

Notices went out to non-profit organizations on Tuesday.  Meals on Wheels is one of several programs losing funding under the new philosophy and United Way's revised definition of emergency and basic needs.

Meals on Wheels has already seen their United Way support decline 10% a year over the last three years. As of June 30, they will lose nearly 33-thousand-dollars in support for their GECAC program serving meals to those age 60 and over, and their program taking meals to people under 60 with disabilities. Meals on Wheels Executive Director Terry Pytlarz is unhappy with the change. "I’m disappointed," he said.  "I kind of knew it was coming anyway because of the past and some of the reduced funding we got over the past three years, so coming into this year I’m a little surprised that we only got five months notice that we’re being completely defunded."

United Way officials say the decisions have been difficult.  Their aim now is to allocate funds in a way they believe will change community conditions, so more people become and stay self sufficient.  Vice President of Community Impact Mike Jaruszewicz said, "Because of the needs in our community, United Way has worked to shift our strategy from simply being a fundraising organization to a community impact organization.  What that means is where United Way was just traditionally focused on grant making, we’re now working at building community partnerships and aligning community grants in a more strategic way.  With this strategy it’s aligning them with community schools and what is the larger community approach to impacting 3rd grade reading."

United Way rolled out the philosophy at a news conference in December, showing their increased support for a community schools model. Some groups who have seen a significant funding cut, will be able to reapply for allocations through an R.F.P. request for proposal process.  They will need to demonstrate that their initiatives support three priorities: Kindergarten Readiness, Mental Health Supports (K-3rd Grade) or Resources to Address Physical Health Barriers to Learning (Pre-K-8).  "Change isn’t easy for any community," Jaruszewicz said, "hard decisions are being made but again, because of the amount of time and research and data that’s gone into this our full board approved these changes that are needed for our community."

Groups now left ineligible by the shift in philosophy know they will have to find ways to raise the lost funds so they don't have to cut services. "Now we have to ask for money that we’re not getting anymore and that’s going to be an additional burden on the citizens of Erie, because we need to ask Erie people for money to help us," Pytlarz said.